Chinese Contemporary Art on Show (UK): January 2014

I often, well daily, receive invitations and information about forthcoming exhibitions and events of Chinese contemporary art and culture happening in the UK and internationally. I thought I’d do something new in 2014 and start sharing these…starting with my location right now on UK soil. So here are a few things that might be worth visiting, revisiting, critiquing and experiencing this January. There seems to be a lot coming-up over the coming weeks…and I’ll no doubt be writing about them here in more Rachel-like terms…let me know if you’re going and perhaps we can start a conversation…

1. Zhang Enli: The Box – Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row, London
10 January – 1 March 2014, Opening: Thursday 9 January, 6 – 8 pm

'Tension 1' (2013) by Zhang Enli. Oil on canvas, 200 x 230cm © Zhang Enli. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
‘Tension 1’ (2013) by Zhang Enli. Oil on canvas, 200 x 230cm © Zhang Enli. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Zhang Enli’s works investigate forgotten spaces and objects. His practice is grounded in melancholic portrayals of objects or places from everyday life, through painting, sculpture or installation such as ‘Space Paintings’, in which he paints directly onto the walls, ceilings and floors of a room. For ‘The Box’, Zhang’s second exhibition with Hauser & Wirth in London, the artist will present his first-ever sculptural installation alongside a new series of paintings. Zhang will engineer a more intimate and completely immersive version of a ‘Space Painting’ by painting the inside of a freestanding plywood box. Zhang’s painting acts as a catalyst for the viewer’s imagination, and for personal narratives which emerge whilst walking through the painting installation.

2. Liu Wei: Density – White Cube, Mason’s Yard, London
29 January – 15 March 2014

Liu Wei
Image courtesy of the artist/White Cube

New work and his second exhibition at White Cube working across a range of media reflecting China’s rapidly transforming socio-political and urban landscape. Sourcing materials for his work from his immediate environment, he alters and reassembles detritus found on building sites – such as metal piping, wooden slats, old doors and large sheets of canvas – into highly complex sculptural and architectural installations. His installations often follow a geometrical formula that evokes a minimalist simplicity of line and form. Designed digitally, his large-scale paintings are similarly composed of a grid-like lattice motif of coloured lines. This geometrical motif that recurs throughout his practice follows its own inverted and highly imaginative schema. Liu Wei creates an idiosyncratic system in which all materials –  scrap metal, window frames and even the pages of books – are broken down into pure matter and re-ordered according to an unfamiliar set of governances and rules. The title for the exhibition, ‘Density’, evokes the spatial crowdedness of recent urban growth. It also suggests a metaphorical state of pressure and impenetrability, in which art poses questions and prompts new ways of thinking, rather than proclaiming ultimate truths.

3. He Xiangyu: Inside the White Cube -White Cube, Bermondsey, London
22 January – 13 April 2014

He Xiangyu
Image courtesy of the artist/White Cube

The first UK exhibition of work by He Xiangyu, a conceptual artist who uses a range of media to articulate cultural and social concerns. Included in the exhibition is an iteration of Cola Project (2008- ) where 127 tons of Coca Cola were boiled down over the course of a year. The resulting material residue has taken various forms including a highly corrosive, pungent earth-like substance, and a black ink that Xiangyu used to make Song Dynasty-style landscape paintings. For the exhibition, the soft drink residue is presented in heaped mounds inside three museum display cases, taking on the appearance of geological remains. Alongside this iare the works Tank Project (2011–13), a life-size military tank made entirely of luxury Italian leather. The work took two years to create, and was hand-sewn by an entire factory of female needle workers, specially trained by the artist; 200g Gold, 62g Protein (2012), a solid gold egg carton containing one ordinary egg;  Everything We Create is Not Ourselves (2013), small copper casts from a mould the artist created by feeling the inside of his mouth with his tongue, and transposing this tactile sensation into a corresponding sculptural form, also making reference to the artist’s body in Wisdom Tower (2013), a small Chinese pagoda constructed using the artist’s wisdom teeth. The artist is interest in inverting value systems, questioning the process by which value is assigned to objects, and in which art excels, imbuing objects and materials with meaning. They also carries more culturally specific references, that have specifically shaped He Xiangyu’s generation in China.

4. LIVE DRAWING – Office for Contemporary Chinese Art (OCCA), Oxford
31 January – 28 February 2014

Image courtesy of OCCA

LIVE DRAWING is a new one-month interdisciplinary collaborative project with performance artists Yingmei Duan and Cai Yuan. The project combines drawing, writing and performance  bringing together the practices for the first time. It is designed to create a dynamic, multi-faceted process of collaboration and interaction. The drawing takes various forms using brush, pencil and paint, conceived as performative and evolving during the four weeks. Yingmei will pass messages in the form of texts and drawings to visitors and participants from the local community to draw out ideas through interaction between the local culture and her own experience. Cai Yuan will engage the broader political and cultural reality of the moment, using text from daily news and the internet to make drawings as performance. He will use ‘isms’ (eg communism, capitalism, collectivism) to interact with the public who will be asked to produce their own ‘isms’, to be displayed in the gallery.

5. Tipping Point – Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), Manchester
17 January – 16 March 2014, Opening: 16 January 5.30-7.30pm

Image courtesy of Jamie Lau/CFCCA
Image courtesy of Jamie Lau/CFCCA

A group sculpture show of UK-based artists Jamie Lau, Cindie Cheung and Andrew Lim that takes the project title ‘Tipping Point’ as its theme. The work exhibited is the result of an ongoing dialogue between the three artists, who have shared working methods and exchanged ideas about the medium of sculpture. They discussed how sculpture could take on a wider meaning, as a term to describe an approach to working – rather than a medium bounded by traditional materials. Each artist shows their own interpretation of this, presenting a narrative played out in space through unconventional methods.

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